January 4, 2021

Tip of the Week
Play Both Weaker and Stronger Players.

Weekend Coaching - Navin and Stanley
The junior program starts again next weekend, so no group sessions this past weekend. I did my usual session with Navin Kumar, and it was one of our best. He blocks with long pips on the backhand (no sponge), and has gotten pretty good at it. About a year ago I'd worked with him on chopping down on the ball slightly at contact, a chop block, but due to Parkinson's, it didn't work out well - it requires a fine touch. So since the we've focused since then on meeting the ball more straight on.

Coach Gary Fraiman (from Florida) saw a video of one of our sessions and suggested he chop block more. (Gary is highly experienced coaching Para players, and as a player is a long pips chopper, so he knows about long pips.) He and I discussed it via Facebook messenger, and I decided to introduce it again - and this time Navin picked up on it quickly!!! When you meet a topspin ball straight on with long pips, you get much of your spin back as backspin. But if you chop block it with the pips, it returns nearly all of the spin, especially if there is no sponge under the pips. Plus, since the ball isn't sinking directly into the wood, it bounces out softer, giving more control, especially depth control. This allows Navin and other players with long pips to block loops back with heavy backspin, both deep and short on the table. (You can't really block a power loop back short, but you can against softer loops or ones that land short.)

  • Chop Blocks (55 sec) mostly against my backhand topspin
  • Chop Blocks (51 sec) where he moves me around (plus I pull off a lefty loop)

Navin also was interviewed by 13-year-old Peyton Magee, editor of the Georgia-based Loch Lomond Gazette.

Meanwhile, other players were also doing private coaching. Here's video (49 sec) of Stanley Hsu (age 12, #1 in the US in Hopes Boys at 2286) counterlooping with Coach Cheng Yinghua (4-time US National, 2-time US Open Men's Singles Champion, and former Chinese National Team member). Stanley started out in my beginning class (I taught him the fundamentals), and I still sometimes coach him in our group sessions and at tournaments.

Should You Give a Mercy Point or Win 11-0?
Here's the video (6:01) from Pingponged TV. It's nice to give up a point to avoid embarrassing an opponent. However, it also risks a rare comeback from 10-1, and (the bigger, more likely problem), can throw off your focus, which could affect you afterwards. Also, against a rival, winning 11-0 can affect their confidence against you in future matches, making it harder for them to beat you. Of course, the simplest path, and one recommended by the most competitive-minded, is to play every point all-out, even at 10-0 against a beginner. (Some players will actually get upset if you give them a "mercy" point - but that's often if you make it too obvious, instead of making them at least sort of earn it.)

My policy on this is as follows.

  • In a competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I don't even think about the score; I play to win, and if I win 11-0, fine, but all that matters is that I won the game or match, won it playing well, and kept my focus. In a slightly competitive match, where there's little chance of a comeback, if I’m up 10-0 match point against someone considerably weaker, then I'll sometimes play a lobbing exhibition point, if I think the opponent is okay with it. (What is a "competitive match"? Any match where, if you play really poorly and the opponent plays really well, he could win. Typically, that might be a 400-point difference in rating, assuming the ratings are accurate - but to play it safe, make that 500 points. By the time you are up 10-0, you'll know if the ratings are accurate.)
  • In a non-competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I won't give away the point. But I will almost always pop a ball up slightly and give the opponent a chance to partly earn the point. But they still have to smash it past me! Against a near-beginner who can at least somewhat smash, I'll make it even easier, and give them the easiest possible ball to smash - high, but not a lob, and without any serious spin. Then I'll fish and lob the rest of the point.

I've had a few 11-0 wins in tournaments. Back in the days when games were to 21, I only once beat someone 21-0, though I could have done so many times against beginners. The one time I did was against this 1800 player who, after I won the first 21-18, went crazy between games, yelling out he could have beaten me and would beat me, and drawing a crowd to watch this crazy guy. (I was about 2250 at the time.) I bore down in the second. It was at around 10-0 (with him screaming every point) that I really became determined to win 21-0 - and at 20-0, I was never so focused! On a side note, the first 2000 player I ever played was Herb Horton, early in 1976 when I was a beginner. He beat me 21-1, 21-0, 21-2. Another interesting match that shows no lead is too big - against Pat Cox in the final of I think Under 2400 at a 4-star Sun TV Open in Pittsburgh, I was down 0-10 in the fifth. I tied it up 10-all! But games were to 21. I went on to win . . . 26-24!!!

The Years 2020, 2021, and 2022
Am I the only old-timer from the days when games were to 21 (before 2001), who, this past year, whenever someone said "2020," thought we were at deuce, and for this next year, whenever someone says "2021," will think I'm down game point? Next year is worse - that's when we lose, 2022. (Of course, every time we say 2021 we are admitting that 2020 won.)

11 Return Sidespin Serves That Make the Opponent Give Up
Here's the video (13:27) from Ti Long. Some of these are way under-used by aspiring players.

Ma Long Forehand Loop (Topspin) | Weight Transfer Analysis
Here's the video (2:13) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Super Tip - Develop your Serve
Here's the video (2:47) from Eli Baraty.

Table Tennis Analysis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Samson Dubina

The Life of a Table Tennis Coach in Covid Times
Here's the video (8:12) featuring Ernesto Ebuen, from pingponged TV. "We talked to Ernesto Ebuen, a player born in the Philippines who migrated to the United States in 2007 where he has been able to build a career in table tennis: as a player, as a coach and as co-founder of PINGPOD: a concept of a small format table tennis clubs in NYC. In this personal interview he tells us how the Covid 19 pandemic took away one of his loved ones at the very beginning of the pandemic, how he himself faced the disease and how a table tennis club can manage infections and continue to function despite a positive case of covid-19."

Table Tennis Talk Podcast | Episode 5
Here's the podcast (82 min) featuring Dan Seemiller, Jr., head coach at the El Paso TTC, by Joey Cochran of Table Tennis Junkie. "Also Ultimate Table Tennis, T-League 2019, the Chinese Nationals, Joey's Coaching Corner, and the Weird World of Table Tennis."


New from Steve Hopkins

John Tannehill Tribute
Here's the music video (4:09) featuring Tannehill and others, from Dave Fullen.

Top 50 Best Table Tennis Points of 2020
Here's the video (14 min) from TTEntertaining.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

2021 Preview: Top three male athletes with a point to prove
Here's the ITTF article, featuring Hugo Calderano, Liam Pitchford, and Mattia Falck.

Here's their home page and news page.

The Magic Chopper
Here are two videos of "The Magic Chopper" from the 1960s, Zhang Xielin of China - a penhold chopper. (He was also known as Chang Shih-lin.) He apparently beat most of the Europeans, who had trouble adapting to his unconventional chopping technique, which included backhand sidespin chops. (His Chinese teammates were used to him, and so did better.)

Christmas Paddle Video
Here's the video (53 sec) - "This truly is a special moment... boy gets the perfect gift this Christmas." A must watch.

Earn £100 a Week Teaching Monkeys to Play Table Tennis
Here's the ad! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I have no idea when this came out or the context, but I now know that "Teaching ping-ping to monkeys is both challenging and rewarding. All it takes is patience and a large box of bananas."

Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:10) from LegendTrix.

More Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:22) by a kid from Dude Attack. (It's listed as video #5, but the previous ones weren't ping-pong trick shots.)

Men's World Cup: The Lego Movie!
Here's the video (3:27) as once again Fan Zhendong and Ma Long go at it!

Santa Wishes You a Happy New Year 2021!!!
Here's the cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Puppy-Pug Pong
Here's the video (19 sec)! Hilarious!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - My Science Fiction Blog
Here's the blog, with a new entry for January 2, 2021. (Note that both larryhodges.com and larryhodges.org both go to my SF blog.) It's mostly about my sales and published stories in 2020, a writing workshop I'm currently attending (sort of like attending a table tennis camp), and about the 67 books I read last year! (This includes six on table tennis.)

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